Observing your child with special needs in the classroom can be very helpful and insightful for both you as the parent as well as the school staff. It allows you to see your child in a different setting interacting with different adults and children than you are used to seeing them with in your home and personal life. It also allows you to see strategies the school is using to work with your child so you can evaluate whether they are strategies you could incorporate into your home routine.
It is often helpful for building a working relationship between the teacher and parent, which, in my opinion, will help your child succeed much more rapidly in school and may even positively affect their behavior at home. For example, if the school is implementing a strategy that is helping your child behave more appropriately and you start implementing that same strategy at home you may see much faster growth. It works the other way around too. If the teacher hears from a parent that a certain strategy is effective at home, they may be able to implement it in the classroom and see more success.
It is worthwhile to take a few minutes before your observation to write down what you hope to gain or learn during the observation. This may help you focus on those particular issues during the observation. You may find it helpful to bring a notebook and something to write with so that you can write down things you have questions about, things you want clarified and things you liked or did not like. If you have already set up a time to discuss the observation this will give you concrete things to talk about with your child’s teacher. If you are not able to talk in person, you could ask to set up a phone or e-mail conversation.
You can usually set up an observation with your child’s case manager or special education teacher. It is best to look at your schedule and then ask the school when a good time would be to observe within your availability. If you want to see your child in a certain classroom or with a certain educator, you will need to be more flexible. Generally, it is best to try not to set up an observation in the first month of school or in the first week after a break from school.
For all of the student’s confidentiality, it is important for you to keep what you saw and heard with regard to other children in the classroom confidential. You are there to learn more about how your child learns and behaves and how you can support that learning at home. I always told parents that were welcome to share anything I did or said or anything their own child did or said but to be careful about respecting the confidentiality of the other children in room by not using their name or distinguishing characteristics about the other children. You may learn something from what you observe in an interaction between the teacher and another student and that is great but just be careful not to divulge personal information to other people.
I have always encouraged and urged the parents of my students to come in and observe their child at school. I usually try to set it up so that I can have a few minutes at the end to discuss what we were doing, answer questions the parent has and encourage them to try certain strategies at home.
What has your experience been with observing your child at school? Have you done it? If not, why not? If so, was it helpful and/or insightful?